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Top 100 Films of the 2010s

A collection of genre-bending experiments, bold new voices, and revelatory career peaks

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The Top 100 Films of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
The Top 100 Films of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche

    Join us as we celebrate the best music, film, and television of the decade. Today, we look back at the 100 Best Films of the 2010s.

    At the top of the 2010s, in one of the top films on the list you’re about to read through, a young tech mogul declared in an ecstatic frenzy that we were going to live on the Internet. He was right, of course, even if Sean Parker probably didn’t realize what Mark Zuckerberg was about to unleash on the global community.

    Like everything, so much of the decade in film unfolded on the Internet. The decade began with Netflix still taking its earliest steps into on-demand streaming, and it’s ending with the production and release of a Martin Scorsese-directed tentpole feature. We watch movies at home as often as theaters now, if not far more frequently; we praise and argue and think about them online for the same reason we’ve always talked about the movies, to better understand them and ourselves and the world through them. In confusing and increasingly fraught times, we needed ways to understand, and film at its best gave us a chance to do exactly that.

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    The list you’re about to read, like every other one you’re about to read in the coming weeks and months, is a condensed version of a far longer list, one full of films just as exceptional as the 100 to follow here. That’s just part of the list-making game. But we’d like to think that it also captures the spectrum of moviegoing experiences from the decade that was, the genre-bending experiments and bold new voices and revelatory career peaks that accompanied film’s transition into cinematic universes and dedicated repertory theaters and the press of a button on your remote.

    We have a lot more to say about what we’ll call the 100 best films of the 2010s, as you’re about to see, so let’s get started.

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    Senior Writer


    100. mother! (2017)

    mother! (Paramount Pictures)

    mother! (Paramount Pictures)

    In 2017, Darren Aronofsky wrapped two careful fists around his directorial detonator and pushed down to deliver mother!, his most acerbic work in nearly two decades, and, arguably, the most divisive film of that year. Some loved it, others hated it, most just weren’t quite sure what to make of it all. mother! doubled down on the psychological horror, pinning its viewer against the wall and peeling back their eyelids to watch Aronofsky’s dizzying, in-your-face, and violent approach to exploring the terrors of humanity: the emotional labors inherent in love, the exploitability of giving oneself to another, the selfishness required in creating, the dangers of cult-like religion, the utter destruction of the world by man and his ilk — you name it. In just a few harrowing hours, Aronofsky devised a new mythology for mankind, and this time, paradise was placid. –Irene Monokandilos


    99. Gone Girl (2014)

    Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)

    Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)

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    What does one do when directing an adaptation of a book with an incredibly satisfying, much-discussed twist? If you’re director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (adapting her own 2012 novel), you find new ways of subverting expectations. You cast Ben Affleck, a guy whose public persona is a cocktail of the likable and the untrustworthy. You capitalize on Rosamund Pike’s angelic face and her knack for turning on the shark-eyes. You make sure it’s every bit as mean, sharp, and blackly funny as the novel. You use all that to lull the audience into forgetting everything they know about Amazing Amy — and then you stock up on fake blood. What a ride. –Allison Shoemaker


    98. The Raid 2 (2014)

    The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics)

    The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Writer and director Gareth Evans took the warp-speed, bone-breaking fisticuffs of 2011’s The Raid to the next level with its epic 2014 sequel. Trading a claustrophobic siege movie for an epic crime drama, the next entry in the saga of Rama (Iko Uwais) picks up immediately where the previous film left off, thrusting him deeper into the criminal underbelly. The result remains a fine-tuned, accomplished film with a sprawling cast of memorable characters. With precision and economical storytelling, Evans upped the ante on his own breathtaking action sequences and fight choreography, no doubt inspiring a number of successors and imitators across the industry. –Meagan Navarro


    97. Her Smell (2019)

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    Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell, Vinyl, Soundtrack

    Her Smell (Gunpowder and Sky)

    Now is the age of Elisabeth Moss; long may she reign. The past decade is practically littered with stellar, vulnerable Moss performances, but few of her post-Mad Men roles are as intriguing or raw as as riot-grrl firebrand Becky Something in Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell. She’s demanding, difficult, and quick to anger, circling the drain of addiction and abstract spiritualism. But Moss breaks through Perry’s deliberate aesthetic distance in exhilarating form, allowing her the kind of messy, entitled anger (and subsequent fall from grace) usually afforded to male characters in these kinds of grimy artistic profiles. It came and went this year, but in a just world, Her Smell, and Moss, would get the recognition they deserve. –Clint Worthington


    96. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

    Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

    Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

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    “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem.” At the beginning of Kubo and the Two Strings, the young titular hero introduces this concept for the sake of a performance. Kubo’s retelling a tale that even he doesn’t fully know or understand, just to make a little spare change and take care of himself and his grandmother. But Laika’s sterling achievement invites and even encourages you to revel in every frame of lustrous stop-motion animation, to savor every meticulously crafted detail along the way. Kubo offers a poignant warrior’s saga, one in which the danger is real and the consequences are permanent, but also one which believes that even the worst among us can still return to the light. You just have to tell the right story. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    95. The Favourite (2018)

    The Favourite, Fox Searchlight, Emma Stone

    The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)

    An unholy concoction made up of Kubrick, PBS’s Masterpiece, and battery acid, Yorgos Lanthimos’ fiendish satire The Favourite is perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to knowing how Jane Austen would sound on a bender. Set in the court of Britain’s Queen Anne, the film ostensibly centers on a love triangle between Olivia Colman’s Anne, a noblewoman and trusted friend (Rachel Weisz), and a newly arrived servant (Emma Stone). But Lanthimos quickly peels back the elegant wallpaper to reveal a more complex power struggle, then pulls up the floorboards to show the beating heart beneath. Uniformly excellent performances make it unmissable, but it’s the sound of that heart (and of bunnies) that lingers. –Allison Shoemaker


    94. Krisha (2015)

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    Krisha (A24)

    Krisha (A24)

    A24 wunderkind Trey Edward Shults made his feature film debut with a modestly budgeted pressure cooker of a family drama, loosely based on (and cast with) his actual family. Centered around Shults’ real-life aunt Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), Krisha turns a tense Thanksgiving homecoming into a simmering mixture of unresolved guilt and complex familial dynamics. Shults lays out many of the hallmarks of his filmmaking style here (from frenetic, elliptical editing to aspect ratios that shift with his characters’ state of mind), and pulls an Oscar-caliber performance from Krisha herself that’s impossible to pull your eyes from. (Just ignore the part where Shults writes himself into a scene where Krisha gets to gush about how much of a filmmaking genius he is.) –Clint Worthington


    93. A Ghost Story (2017)

    A Ghost Story (A24)

    A Ghost Story (A24)

    Rooney Mara stomachs half a pie. Casey Affleck hides behind a sheet. Will Oldham muses about obsolescence. This is the plaintive world of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, and it’s more haunting than anything in The Conjuring universe. Built like a MoMa installation and blocked like an Off-Broadway play, this 95-minute excursion through the afterlife offers a sobering outlook on mortality, the stuff we leave behind, and how time cruelly (albeit naturally) drifts away from it all. How far Lowery is willing to take this concept is a true marvel of the production itself, particularly how he never shatters its minimalistic structure. With each frame comes another gasp of life — until it’s a fading memory. –Michael Roffman


    92. The Wind Rises (2013)

    The Wind Rises (Toho)

    The Wind Rises (Toho)

    Japanese animation goliath Hayao Miyazaki has woven a career of films that delight viewers with oddity, sincerity, and beauty in equal measure. The Wind Rises is no exception. Eschewing fanciful cat buses, mermaids, and adorable witches for the gorgeousness that comes within the mundane and the solemn, Miyazaki’s supposed final bow follows a young Japanese engineer who dreams of building airplanes, only to spend a life struggling with the use of his art as vehicles of destruction. As Jiro looks back in lament at how his dream of beauty was corrupted by men, so too does Miyazaki, in his tragic and bittersweet farewell. –Irene Monokandilos


    91. Elle (2016)

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    Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Paul Verhoeven made a return from his 10-year hiatus in high, offensive style. Elle opens with its hero (Isabelle Huppert) being violated on the floor of her apartment as her attacker scurries away. Then she cleans herself up and goes to work. The mystery deepens like a Patricia Highsmith novel as she unexpectedly draws nearer to unearthing the identity of the man who got away and finds herself in the thick of sexually charged, if petty, corporate espionage. Verhoeven shoots the film like a modernist farce, letting Huppert’s feline visage and icy eyes do the heavy lifting, crafting his most twisted film since he left his native Netherlands for America. –Scout Tafoya


    90. Lady Bird (2017)

    Lady Bird (A24)

    Lady Bird (A24)

    Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, took on the coming-of-age tale with an autobiographical lens. Saoirse Ronan stars as the eponymous lead, a strong-willed teen struggling to find her way amidst a turbulent relationship with her mother and societal pressures. With pathos and humor, Lady Bird treats its title character with respect and allows her to be both flawed and complicated. An affecting tale told against a rapidly shifting economic landscape post-911, Gerwig declared herself a force to be reckoned with, particularly after garnering five Academy Award nominations. –Meagan Navarro


    89. Attack the Block (2011)

    Attack the Block (Optimum Releasing)

    Attack the Block (Optimum Releasing)

    Long before Star Wars made John Boyega a household name, he delivered a star-worthy performance in Joe Cornish’s feature film debut, Attack the Block. As Moses, Boyega leads a gang of teenage thugs as they’re forced to defend their turf from an alien invasion. That simple sci-fi comedy premise becomes anything as Cornish weaves in classist satire and themes of race. A high-energy thriller with fun creature effects and a beating heart to balance the endless wit, Cornish paid tribute to the classics, all while forging his own path. Social commentary has never gone down easier than in this fantastic popcorn flick for the ages. –Meagan Navarro


    88. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

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    Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal)

    Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal)

    “Out of four possible stars Rolling Stone has given it … the shit emoji.” The Lonely Island movies have never performed as well as their crowd-pleasing songs and music videos, but don’t let the reviews scare you. From 2007’s Hot Rod through 2016’s ingenious Popstar, they’ve had more fun playing with what narrative film is capable of supporting than nearly any other American comedy directors. In Popstar, frontman Andy Samberg found the perfect use for his boyish good looks and burlesque of masculine confidence as Conner4real, a Justin Bieber stand-in as punchable as he is ubiquitous. Popstar delights in setting the conventions of biopics, reality TV, and the voracious ouroboros of celebrity alight with a flamethrower. –Scout Tafoya


    87. Columbus (2017)

    Columbus (Sundance Institute)

    Columbus (Sundance Institute)

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    In the same way that Columbus, Indiana, is a town unexpectedly rife with architectural wonders, Columbus is a deceptively masterful feature built from unassuming parts. As the pensive son of a comatose professor (John Cho) and a local architecture student (Haley Lu Richardson) come together over a few days to talk and wander and feel a bit less alone, Kogonada’s directorial debut amplifies delicate emotions without once cheapening or diminishing them. In its quiet way, Columbus is the kind of film that rewards an attentive viewer for their consideration. The conversations may focus on buildings, but the true search is for symmetry and connection, for clean lines to soothe frazzled landscapes and chipped spirits. The ground shifts beneath us all, subtly, even as our lives and the larger world move on, and therein lies the film’s soft-spoken power. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    86. The Trip (2010)

    The Trip (BBC Worldwide)

    The Trip (BBC Worldwide)

    Tell me if you’ve heard of this one: Two grown men get up to no good across the English countryside, palavering with women half their age, and making a ruckus in restaurants with deep cut impersonations of Michael Caine and Sean Connery. No? You should watch the BBC more often. Originally a six-episode miniseries starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, The Trip became an international delight when it was recut and rolled into theaters in 2010. Although it’s since been even more condensed by YouTube clips, Michael Winterbottom’s film swells with adult drama that lingers long after the laughter. Come for the references to Get Carter; stay for the existential dread. –Michael Roffman


    85. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

    Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures)

    Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures)

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    Brad Bird came into this like a pro. The animation whiz opened his 2011 thriller with a prison-break so fluid and flawless they ought to teach it at UCLA. Tom Cruise, our man Ethan Hunt, languishes in prison. Then his door pops open. Music starts hitting the PA system. It’s Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”. You know what? It works. Hunt’s back in action, and assisted with crafty co-spies, with just enough time to deviate from his plan by picking up an unexpected aid. The scene crescendos perfectly to the classic Schifrin theme, and like a sparked wick, Ghost Protocol lights our fire and invites us to whatever’s next. This is how you hook your audience. How you start a great work of escapism. –Blake Goble


    84. Sing Street (2016)

    Sing Street, John Carney, Musical

    Sing Street (Lionsgate)

    John Carney’s no stranger to musical charmers, but Sing Street is an especially gleeful breath of fresh air. The tale of a group of misfits (including golden-voiced moppet Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) weathering the struggles of 1980s Ireland by starting their own rock band, the film revels in the youthful punch of its protagonists, weaving a simple but heartfelt story about the liberating nature of forging your own path. Plus, it’s underscored by an album’s worth of unstoppable, period-appropriate Carney-penned bops, from “Drive It Like You Stole It” to “To Find You” (which, speaking from personal experience, makes for a tear-jerking first dance at the wedding). –Clint Worthington


    83. Parasite (2019)

    Parasite Movie Review

    Parasite (Neon)

    Bong Joon-ho’s often reveled in the perverse comedy of class distinctions, and Parasite is his most assured document on the subject to date. A twisty, Hitchcockian tale of an impoverished clan conning their way into the well-paid service of a wealthy family, Parasite sees Director Bong at the height of his powers, sending his characters through a meat grinder of capitalist desperation and nesting-doll power dynamics as thematically enlightening as it is perversely delightful to watch. One could hardly mistake it for social realism, but its crackerjack plotting and vibrant storytelling will have you humming “Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago” for weeks on end. –Clint Worthington


    82. Eighth Grade (2018)

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    Eighth Grade (A24)

    Eighth Grade (A24)

    All the awkwardness tethered to adolescence isn’t gender-specific, but (speaking from experience) few things are more poignant and volatile than a pre-teen girl. In comedian-turned-filmmaker Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, Eighth Grade, Kayla, (the amazing Elsie Fisher) acts as an old photograph of that past version of ourselves we may have buried down — deep down. Independent filmmaking at its finest, Eighth Grade is a funny, wise, heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale told in the social media age, but, despite technological advances, serves as a reminder that most of the pronounced, defining moments of teenage-hood take place in our heads, and that fumbling, insecure 14-year-old self isn’t a phase, but a state of mind. And it’s one most of us don’t really grow out of entirely. –Samantha Lopez


    81. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

    Manchester by the Sea (Amazon)

    Manchester by the Sea (Amazon)

    Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea remains one of the more difficult watches of the past decade. It’s a pale, frozen, and cruel world that Lonergan lays out for Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler, a quiet, broken janitor with a tragic past who does all he can just to maintain a one-room apartment and endure four buildings of snowy sidewalks, leaky pipes, and annoying tenants. When Lee’s brother, Joe, dies and leaves his only son, Patrick, to his care, Lee finds himself drowning both in new responsibilities but also memories of the mistake that ravaged his life. It’s a story about self-forgiveness that heartbreakingly suggests that sometimes our guilt is just too strong an impediment. When Lee mentions the idea of a pullout sofa and the film ends with Patrick and him fishing from Joe’s boat, we, as an audience, find ourselves utterly grateful for even the slightest hint that things may one day be alright. Finally, the ground begins to thaw. –Matt Melis


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